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For LOST IN LOS ALAMOS Beta Readers Only - Please Do Not Share.

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Todd was unusually chatty on the way back. He spoke about his life in New Mexico. His grandparents came over from Ireland and headed straight off the boat to New Mexico. Someone had told them that the southwest held a promise that Belfast could never have made good on. The expectations they were told and which they clung to over the increasingly bad roads the further west and south they went fell tragically short.

Ida and Stuart Wilde had such a hard time of it there so that even before their secretly pregnant daughter, Teresa, was able to change her name, her giant of a new husband had been murdered and she had to scramble to support herself away from the home to carry the baby to birth. She became hard, but she became strong. Shortly after, the huge baby boy bruised his way out of her womb into a different set of rules than those his grandparents had known back in Ireland. That was how Scott thought of what Todd told him about how he came into the world.

When he thought about it more, the miles of scrub brush and dirty snow blurring past on either side of the Jeep, New Mexico was probably more like Ireland for Todd’s family than Todd probably realized. Strangers in a strange land. Brittons in Ireland and a language that had to be learned, an accent to be disguised; hard scrabble life to hard scrabble life. Was it any better here for them? It had to be, Scott thought, given how Todd seemed to be able to wiggle, work, and finagle his way around in his complicated life.

How Todd’s mother, the Honorable Teresa Wilde, ended up being a county judge was not only a mystery, but was as well a miracle that kept saving the precocious young  Todd as he fought his way through the Hispanic life and lessons portioned out in Española. That he lived up to his surname was a gross understatement. 

Todd spoke of the gyrations of his youth, his considerable size so young, the Ginger persona he could not escape, the necessity of adopting the local language and accent to survive, and being branded by the pink skin of the Yankee.

Then Baby Bobby was on the way and so Todd and Doreen, each at seventeen, had agreed to marry as she was the only girl that could handle him. The model that Grandfather Stuart had impressed upon him came to the surface in such a way as to spur his grandson to at least keep up appearances of accountability. Doreen managed the rest as best she could.

Todd had gone on to apprentice with a local remodeler that catered to the Lab scientists. People with money. Thomas Anagnos was a Greek Orthodox master carpenter that had come from the old country. Todd promised to tell the story of how he hooked up with the old guy another time and Scott sensed that it was too humbling an experience for Todd to relate easily.

After the old man had retired from the business, Todd took over fully, managing  to walk a fine line of continuing the carpenter’s business integrity and craft while seeking to maximize his profits any way he could. Though he just couldn’t get out of his own way.

Scott listened as though he was buying all of it the way Todd presented it, all the time storing away impressions and key points that would help him manage the guy through this thing.

As Todd told it, he was beset by hard luck and sabotage from all sides, and so struggled to keep afloat. The business suffered from however Todd rationalized it. It was everyone else’s fault. Scott knew that excuse well. There was a time he went through that and still wrestled with it. 

As they drove through town, Todd wanted to stop at Sonic and get lunch. Scott just went along to get along. Another burger and onion rings with a Diet Coke and twice that for Todd and they were headed back through town to the house.

Taking advantage of the quiet sleepiness they both felt once the Jeep was moving,  Scott took the moment to try and pry some useful info out of Todd.

“How much time do you think you can spare to help me?” he asked.

Todd looked over to Scott, who kept his eyes on the road. Todd stared before he spoke.

“Dude, don’t bust my nuts.”

Scott glanced at Todd, then back to the road. “Just give me an idea. I need to plan this thing out. You gotta understand that? Right?”

“Oh, hombre, we are getting along. Working as a team, you know? You and me. Why fuck things up with the pressure gig?” Todd said with a tired lack of patience.

“Todd,” Scott pleaded. “I gotta get back home as soon as I can. If you...”

“Turn up here on the left,” Todd interrupted. Scott glanced between the road ahead and Todd.

“Why? Where we going?”

“Just turn left, Dude,” Todd said, exasperated. The turn came fast and Scott braked automatically with the directive, turning onto the splitting left at the T. He hadn’t noticed the road sign above, but the sign further up on the drive caught his attention.

“Valles Caldera National Preserve...” Scott read aloud. The sign said it was seventeen miles ahead. Scott remembered the warning CookieSheet had given him just that morning. “How the heck did she know...?” he wondered.

He pulled the Jeep into the first road on the right that he could use to turn around in.

“What?” Todd asked. “Why are you turning around?”

“I don’t have time today for whatever excursion you have planned. Maybe another day when we’ve gotten some stuff done,” Scott said, cranking the wheel, using the Jeep’s tight turning radius.

“It will only take a few minutes. We should go now. I have something I want you to see,” Todd said.

“What?” Scott asked, stopped on the shoulder to wait for oncoming cars.

“Dude, it’s a surprise. It’s super cool. You will like it a lot!”

“It’ll keep. I’ll go another day, okay? I promise,” Scott said, pulling out onto the road back to the intersection.

“Okay, Dude. I’m going to keep you to that. I’m a man of my word and that shit holds a lot of water with me, you know?” Todd’s chin went up again with his pout and he looked out of the window.

“Great!” Scott offered, almost laughing out loud.

“Anyway,” Todd said, “It’s not really the kind of day for it. Or the time, either.”


The Formica went on like a dream. Todd knew what he was doing and Scott was confident that he’d know if Todd slacked on doing a quality job. At least as long as he was present for it. Todd showed Scott how to bevel and round the corner seams with a Drexel rotor and then seal it with matching Formica caulk. They both got a bit high with the mastic glue that held down the Formica to the plywood and with Todd drinking beers through it, they were laughing at crude and rude jokes and men’s stories. There was the hint of camaraderie making an appearance in the kitchen and reverberating off the ceramic tiles with pronounced belches. 

The moulding around the windows went up. The tile was grouted and Scott would seal it later that night. Soon, Scott would even be able to put the outlet plates on. That excited him quite a bit and he couldn’t wait for Todd to leave so he could get to it later.

Suddenly, Scott was enjoying himself. Completion was always satisfying. He had to have quite a bit of tunnel vision to see the small projects that way among the enormity of the rest of it, but he would take what he could get.


At the end of that day, with progress in his wake and Todd cooperating to a degree, he let his rear end drop onto The Pyre. He was still beat to heck despite the renewed spirit he felt.

Off came the right boot and the filthy sock that was melded to his foot. Then the left boot came off with the same result. He wiped off his toes. “Shit, I didn’t bring my toenail clippers,” he thought. “Could always let them grow ‘til they yellow and curl around on themselves,” he thought. A devilish grin formed.

Loosen the belt. He could always stand up to take his dirty jeans off, but too much to get on and off The Pyre. So, work even harder to unbuckle and loosen his belt, unzip, and wriggle out of the skinny jeans. Pull the t-shirt off over the dried sticky-sweat skin on his back. Throw it in the corner pile with the rest. Moan with the effort.

“Oh, god, I’m already in a rut!” he laughed.

That night, the heater chugged on at a reasonable temperature. Scott’s dreams, if he had them, were not memorable. Sienna only popped into his mind once, and even then, he tucked the thought in with a “Good Night” as he watched the orange face of the heater. He never saw it cycle off.

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